House of Commons Hansard #16 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was use.


Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to speak in favour of the amendments of this bill.

While I was not a member of the committee, I followed the issue very closely. It had a great deal of interest in my riding, for several reasons. I would like to commend members on all sides of the House for a truly productive committee process.

I know my colleague from Winnipeg Centre mentioned some of the amendments that he would like to have seen take place. I would underscore that my understanding is that the amnesty was simply too complex to build into the bill and must be dealt with administratively on a case by case basis. I would also really encourage anyone who has a criminal record to apply for a pardon before undertaking international travel.

I am very pleased to speak of some of the other amendments that are found in Bill C-10. Members are undoubtedly aware that countries treat cannabis possession in different ways. Some countries tolerate certain forms of possession and consumption, certain countries apply administrative sanctions or fines and others have penal solutions to the issue.

Despite the different legal approaches toward cannabis, there is a common trend and we certainly can see this particularly in European countries. There is the development of alternative measures to criminal possession for the cases of use and possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use. There is regime that can involve fines, cautions, prohibition, exemption from punishment and counselling, and we see these among the European judicial systems.

In Australia some states and territories have also adopted cannabis decriminalization measures. Some of these measures are similar to the ones being contemplated in Bill C-10, which is before the House. I would like to take just a few moments to describe the situation in South Australia, the first Australian jurisdiction to adopt cannabis decriminalization measures, and I think we can learn from this example.

Reform of the cannabis laws in South Australia came with the bill entitled, the controlled substances act amendment of 1986. This amendment proposed a number of changes to the controlled substances act of 1984, including the insertion of provisions dealing with the expiation of simple cannabis offences. This represented an adoption of a new scheme for expiation for simple cannabis offences, such as possessing or cultivating small amounts of cannabis for personal use or possessing implements for using cannabis.

The cannabis expiation notice, also known as CEN, came into effect in South Australia in 1987. Under this scheme, adults committing “simple cannabis offences” could be issued an expiation notice. Offenders were able to avoid prosecution by paying specified fees. The fees ranged in Australian dollars between $50 and $150, and Australian dollars are fairly comparable with Canadian dollars, as I am sure everyone is well aware. This fine had to be paid within 60 days of the issue of the notice. Failure to pay the specified fee within the 60 day period could lead to prosecution in court and the possibility of a conviction that would then be on a person's record.

Underlying this change was the rationale of a clear distinction that needed to be made between private users of cannabis and those that were involved in dealing, producing or trafficking in cannabis. This distinction was emphasized at the introduction of the cannabis expiation notice scheme by the simultaneous introduction of a more severe penalty for offences relating to manufacturing, production, the sale or supplying of all drugs of dependence in prohibitive substances. This included offences relating to large quantities of cannabis.

The CEN scheme was modified by the introduction of the expiation of offences act of 1996. It now provides those served with expiation notices the option of choosing between being prosecuted in order to actually contest the original notice. Previously if one did receive a notice, that person had to let the payment period expire before he or she could actually have a court appearance and then the notice could be contested. In choosing to be prosecuted, however, people who were issued a notice had their alleged offence converted from one which could be expiated to one which still carried the possibility of a criminal conviction.

The expiation system for minor cannabis offences in South Australia has been the subject of a number of evaluation studies. The impact of the implementation of such a system can best be seen in that review.

As I mentioned, the South Australian cannabis expiation notice system began in 1987. The main arguments for the system were the reduction of the negative social impacts upon the convicted minor cannabis offender as well as a potential cost saving to the state. Implicit in the former view was the belief that potential harms of using cannabis were outweighed by the harms arising from a criminal conviction.

None of the studies upon the levels or patterns of cannabis use in South Australia found that an increase in cannabis use was attributable to the introduction of the CEN scheme. Cannabis use did increase in South Australia over the 10 year period between 1985 and 1995, but increases in cannabis use were detected throughout Australia, including in jurisdictions that possessed a total prohibition approach to cannabis use. In fact the largest increase in the rate of weekly cannabis use across all Australian jurisdictions occurred in Tasmania, which was a strictly prohibitionist state between 1991 and 1995.

A comparative study of minor cannabis offenders in South Australia and in Western Australia concluded that both the CEN scheme, as well as the more punitive prohibition approach, actually had very little deterrent effect on cannabis users. Offenders from both jurisdictions reported that the expiation notice, or the conviction, had really little or no impact upon their subsequent cannabis and other drug related use. However, the adverse social consequences of having a conviction for using cannabis far outweighed those of receiving an expiation notice. A significantly higher proportion of those apprehended for cannabis use in Western Australia reported problems with employment, further involvement with the criminal justice system, as well as having trouble finding accommodation and having interpersonal relationship problems.

In the law enforcement and criminal justice areas, the number of offences for which cannabis expiation notices were issued in South Australia increased in the year 1987-88, from about 6,000 to approximately 17,000 in the year 1993-94, as well as in subsequent years. This appears to reflect a greater use with which the police can process minor cannabis offences and a shift away from the use of police discretion giving offenders informal cautions to a process where it is formally recorded and all minor offences are noted.

Substantial numbers of offenders still received convictions due to their failure to pay their expiation fees on time. This was due in large part to a poor understanding by the cannabis users of the legal implication of not paying their fee to avoid a court appearance and due to financial difficulties. Most CENs are issued for less than 25 grams of cannabis and half of all CENs issued were received by people between the ages of 18 and 24. This can have a huge impact on somebody's future if they are looking at a criminal conviction.

There has been strong support by law enforcement, as well as criminal justice personnel for this CEN scheme. It has proven to be relatively cost effective. They estimate that the costs for the scheme were about $1.24 million from 1995 to 1996 while total revenue from the fees and fines were around $1.68 million. Therefore, it is a difference between costing that for policing and getting that in revenue. Had a prohibition approach been in place, it is estimated that the total cost would have been around $2.01 million with revenue from fines around $1 million.

There is much to be learned by the international examples. The South Australian example is very instructional and it is one of which I think our government has made good use.

I would underscore that this is not technically decriminalizing measures, but simply bringing in a different regime on how we deal with people who do use small amounts of cannabis. I am very pleased to be here to speak in favour of the proposed legislation.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to partake in the debate on Bill C-10 which would provide for a fine or would make it a summary offence for the possession of marijuana.

I also say that it has been a pleasure for me to serve on the non-medical use of drug committee where we studied the whole issue of the decriminalization of marijuana and other drugs issues as well.

At the outset, I would like to reiterate the position of the Conservative Party of Canada on this contentious issue.

The most important thing to understand is that we believe the use and the possession of marijuana must remain illegal. The message that we would get out to young people and people all across the land is that it must remain illegal. However, possessions of five grams or less could be dealt with through summary offences, after other safeguards have been put in place. This is significantly less than the 15-gram limit that the Liberal government is proposing.

Failure to pay these significant fines should result in the loss of a driver's licence or something similarly important. In other words, we would propose that if we move to placing this as a summary offence, the payments must be vigorously enforced.

I would like to also personally suggest that all moneys collected from possession fines be specifically earmarked or tagged for drug addition research, for education, for information and treatment.

The Conservative Party of Canada believes that what we are proposing could be more of a deterrent than the present situation inasmuch as the police may be more likely to fine individuals than charge them with a criminal offence. Writing out a fine is less onerous than laying a criminal charge, a charge which is often dismissed by our courts.

In my opinion, and I have spoken in the House regarding this in the past, scarce police resources could be better utilized dealing with much more serious crime, such as drug trafficking, which is synonymous with organized crime. Police forces all across Canada are grossly underfunded. As a result, the police are forced to priorize or to risk manage their investigations and their crime files.

On numerous occasions in the House, I have outlined the financial difficulties many municipalities in my riding of Crowfoot are encountering, as far as paying for police services. I pointed out that as a result of this financial crunch, the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police had stated that, without federal support, police services in the Province of Alberta would have no choice but to set an order of policing priorities. This would seriously jeopardize the safety and security of all Canadians.

I, unlike the Liberal government, fully recognize and respect the position of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police in regards to funding issues and in regards to Bill C-10.

The Alberta Chiefs of Police are opposed to the decriminalization of marijuana. Last year, at a meeting of the Alberta Police Chiefs in Lethbridge, Camrose police Chief Marshall Chalmers, said:

We are absolutely against decriminalization. We believe it's absolutely sending the wrong message.

Chief Chalmers is also the president of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police. He believes that marijuana is a gateway drug to harder drugs and to much more addictive drugs.

The Canadian Professional Police Association has serious reservations about the government's approach to drug use in Canada, particularly in regard to Bill C-10. It believes that it sends the wrong message to the youth. It has therefore strongly recommended that before the government does anything, that it come forward and implement what our committee asked, and that is to implement the national drug strategy that would provide frontline police officers with the tools to help reduce drug use and its negative consequences in communities.

The Canadian Medical Association and other health representatives are of the same opinion as the CPPA and have therefore urged the government to meaningfully fund and implement the national drug strategy prior to changing the legal status of marijuana.

As far as I understand it, this has the full support of the former minister of health, who publicly warned last year that decriminalization “will cause a spike in drug use”. Those are powerful words. The former Liberal health minister stood up and said that if we decriminalize marijuana, it will undoubtedly cause a spike in drug use. It sounds to me as if this is really defeating the problem we should be trying to solve.

Following a caucus meeting in mid-May, the former health minister, pointing to other countries that have softened their laws, expressed concern that decriminalization would lead to an increase in marijuana smoking, which in turn would lead to an addiction. The former justice minister rejected his colleague's assertion outright.

I imagine that similar sentiments have been proposed to all of us. As members of Parliament we receive letters. I know that similar proposals were conveyed to the Prime Minister in an open letter from the Canadian Professional Police Association. I will quote from their letter:

Perceived tolerance of drug use and misinformation has contributed to increased drug use among school age children. This will only continue until Canada adopts a National Drug Strategy focused on consistently and sufficiently informing Canadians about the true harm of drug use...we are disappointed by the rush to move forward with decriminalization before such a strategy is operational--

The CPPA outlined the necessary components of a national drug strategy, a strategy aimed at discouraging young people from using drugs. Unfortunately, the limited time available to me today does not permit me to provide the details of that plan.

I support the CPPA's proposal regarding the necessary components of the national drug strategy, as well as its advice not to proceed with Bill C-10 until the strategy is firmly implemented, established and properly funded.

I hold out little hope, however, that the justice minister will heed the advice, as his predecessor has totally ignored the advice of provincial counterparts.

The provincial justice ministers asked the former justice minister to remove Bill C-38 from the legislative agenda and to give greater priority to the national sex offender registry, to child pornography legislation and to conditional sentencing reviews.

As is evident by the bill before us today, the justice minister did not listen. This comes as absolutely no surprise to those of us on this side of the House and to members of the non-medical use of drugs committee. The justice minister completely pre-empted and ignored our committee's report. Our committee spent months travelling across the country. Indeed, we spent time travelling to other parts of the world consulting, and the justice minister completely pre-empted our report and did not really pay any heed to what it said.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and commend the graduates in my riding and all those involved in the DARE program. Last week, my daughter attended her graduation in DARE. I know that over the last few weeks hundreds and perhaps thousands of children throughout Alberta and Canada have been a part of the DARE program, a program that warns children about the harmful use of drugs and about violence in their communities.

I see that my time is up. I would simply like to urge the justice minister to drop the bill from the legislative agenda until the national drug strategy has been fully implemented and is operational, and to return his focus to more priority measures against crime, such as the national sex offender registry.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate Bill C-10, this government's feeble attempt to address the possession and production of marijuana in Canada.

At times Canadians must wonder if the government is even aware of the problems of marijuana grow ops in Canada. I have tried for some time now to make these Liberals aware of the extent of the problem in my constituency of Surrey North.

In Surrey alone, an estimated 3,500 to 4,500 grow ops generate, conservatively estimated, in excess of $2 billion per year. B.C. bud goes into the United States as currency for guns and cocaine. These grow ops are run by violent criminal gangs and many are located in residential neighbourhoods where there are plenty of children. I continue to receive letters, e-mails and phone calls from constituents who are extremely angry that too little is being done.

The criminal intelligence directorate of the RCMP issued a report, “Marijuana Cultivation in Canada”, in November 2002. In 2001, Canadian police seized close to $1.4 million marijuana plants, a six-fold increase since 1993. In 2002, 54 million grams of bulk marijuana were seized, up from 28 million in 2001. This phenomenal increase in the illegal production of marijuana occurred under this government's watch while the current Prime Minister held the purse strings on funding that could have addressed the problem long before now.

The RCMP told the former solicitor general that grow ops had reached “epidemic proportions”--that is their wording--and that resources to take them down were an issue.

Innocent lives are at risk here. We have had drive-by shootings, assaults and murders. Neighbours frequently have their homes violently invaded in so-called grow rips, when the bad guys get the wrong address.

Why do we not see any resources directly targeting marijuana grow operations and why is there not a strategy in place? This is out of control.

The former solicitor general called the problem serious and admitted it should be challenged head on. He said, “We do have to do more”. He said that he had raised the matter with the former minister of finance, the current Prime Minister. At that time, he declared that in the next few weeks the government would bring forward proposals that, in his words, “will in a more comprehensive fashion challenge the grow operations, to increase penalties and take them down”.

Bill C-10 falls woefully short of that promise.

The current maximum sentence for growing marijuana is seven years. The bill we are debating proposes increasing the maximum sentence to 14 years, but only for more than 50 plants. The maximum sentence for growing four to 25 plants will actually be reduced to five years. That is shocking. We are reducing sentences while international organized crime is increasingly establishing grow ops in Canada due to our already lax laws and lenient sentences.

Besides, with penalties still at the discretion of the courts, what is the point of increasing maximum sentences when they rarely, if ever, come close to imposing the current maximums? With no set mandatory minimum sentences, we will continue to see judges giving far less than the maximum penalties for cultivation. If the government were truly serious about combatting grow ops, it would have instituted mandatory minimum jail sentences and more effective proceeds of crime legislation.

This legislation is great news for organized crime. The November 2002 RCMP criminal intelligence directorate report declared that high profits, a low risk of being caught and lenient sentences are spurring the epidemic of marijuana grow ops in Canada. It states:

Police resources are now being taxed to the point where difficult choices must be made when faced with competing priorities.

This explains why law enforcement agencies are unable to make a lasting impact on the marijuana cultivation industry in Canada. Huge profits from illegal marijuana growing are often used by organized crime, in the words of the report “to finance other illicit activities, such as the importation of Ecstasy, liquid hashish and cocaine”.

The number of illegal marijuana operations is rising so fast that some Canadian police agencies are being overwhelmed, the RCMP report said, stating that:

In some parts of the country, the phenomenon has reached epidemic proportions.

I have been asking questions in the House for some time now about the government's lack of effort to take down marijuana grow ops. In the spring of 2003, the former solicitor general visited Surrey to examine the problem, in part, by his own admission, because of questions I had asked in this place. To this point in time, neither my constituents nor I have seen any action from the government. I commented at the time that his visit was just a grow op photo op. It now appears as though that is all it was.

In August 2003, another RCMP criminal intelligence unit report said that organized crime is extending its marijuana grow op reach clear across Canada by merging with biker gangs.

On December 17, 2003, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police released a report entitled “Green Tide: Indoor Marijuana Cultivation and its Impact on Ontario”. This study sounds an alarm in Ontario about a problem the RCMP labelled epidemic on a national scale one year previously. It details the threats to public safety and the cost to society in stolen electricity and insurance premiums, among other things. It also links grow ops to organized crime and shows that the problem affects both rural and urban communities. This is all old news to British Columbians.

B.C. and the Surrey RCMP have been tackling the problem head-on and in recent months have taken down numerous grow ops, no thanks to Ottawa. Perhaps now that grow ops are a problem in vote-rich Ontario, these Liberals will take serious legislative action.

Why has the government allowed the problem to get worse? Report after report, year in and year out, has declared that there is an escalating marijuana grow op problem. Why did it not use the bill to do something significant rather than just tinker around with maximum sentences?

On the issue of decriminalization, the government is sending our youth an extremely confusing message. On one hand it has said not to use drugs and that it is getting tough on cultivation and trafficking, but then it has followed up by tacitly condoning the use of marijuana by decriminalizing its possession.

To further exacerbate things, the Liberals propose lower fines for kids than for adults: one gram of hashish, $300 for adults, $200 for youths aged 12 to 18; 15 grams or less of marijuana, $150 for adults and $100 for youths; 15 to 30 grams of marijuana, $300 for adults and $200 for youths. What lunacy: if they can afford to buy the drugs, then should we not assume they can afford to pay the fine? What kind of message is this?

To sum up, although the Liberals have committed to studying “drug driving”, without effective roadside assessment capabilities we will see more drug impaired drivers getting behind the wheel with no concrete way to detect them. The Ontario police are experimenting with a “potalyser”, which would detect marijuana in the bloodstream. The federal government should investigate these types of innovations.

Collection of fines and the nonpayment of tickets will fall under provincial jurisdiction. Many provinces have already indicated that they do not have the resources to follow up in these areas.

Fine levels do not increase for subsequent offences, so therefore there would be no deterrent for repeat offenders.

There has been no provision put in place by the government to review changes to the law resulting from the future increase in THC toxicity or potency of marijuana.

The proposed meagre enforcement resources add up to about two dozen extra RCMP officers nationwide. Local or municipal law enforcement would not receive any new resources.

There is no establishment of an office to coordinate the efforts to deal with illicit drugs in our society.

There is no change in the penalties for trafficking, and only a truly pathetic effort at addressing grow ops.

Personally I am opposed to any attempt to decriminalize the possession of even small amounts of marijuana, for a very simple reason. I have experienced the ultimate consequence of drug abuse by young people. The individuals involved in the assault on my son, which culminated in his murder some eleven and a half years ago, raised marijuana abuse as an issue for defence.

In conclusion, let me say that many of my constituents, several provinces, the Canadian Police Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and many Liberal backbenchers have expressed various concerns over this legislation. For all of these reasons, I will oppose Bill C-10.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on Bill C-10. The Minister of Justice has just reinstated Bill C-10, the proposed reform legislation for Canada, and the government is proposing amendments to the bill. I am pleased to speak to the bill and the amendments.

Some people have questioned Canada's ability to bring about a reform of the cannabis possession legislation as proposed in the bill. I would like to place on the record some of the facts and technicalities about cannabis and the international conventions that deal with cannabis.

Canada ratified the single convention on narcotic drugs in 1961 and the protocol amending the single convention in 1976. It acceded to the convention on psychotropic substances in 1988 and it ratified the convention on illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances in 1990. All three of these drug conventions are in force at present.

The international community's main efforts in regard to drugs, as evidenced by the single and psychotropic conventions, are directed toward creating a network of administrative controls. The primary object of this regime is to regulate the supply and movement of drugs with a view to limiting their production, manufacture and import and export to the quantities required for legitimate medical and scientific purposes.

The conventions also require governments to furnish to the international drug control agencies periodic reports on their application of the international instruments and to submit to international supervision.

While the single and psychotropic conventions are, first and foremost, regulatory in nature imposing obligations to control the supply and movement of drugs, the trafficking convention is a law enforcement instrument. This convention calls upon parties to take specific law enforcement measures to improve their ability to identify, arrest, prosecute and convict drug traffickers across international boundaries. However it also contains a provision dealing with the possession of narcotics and psychotropic substances.

Cannabis products, marijuana, hashish and cannabis oil, are classified as narcotic drugs under schedules I and IV of the single convention. The single convention requires that a series of activities, cultivation, production, manufacture, extraction, preparation, possession, offering for sale, distribution, purchase, sale, delivery, transport, importation and exportation of drugs, be established as punishable offences when committed intentionally.

Parties are required to ensure that serious offences are made liable to adequate punishment, particularly by imprisonment or other penalties of deprivation of liberty.

Parties to the trafficking convention are required to establish as criminal offences under their domestic laws many of the same activities as those enumerated in article 36 of the single convention in respect of any narcotic or psychotropic substances.

Prior to the development of the trafficking convention, there existed a debate as to whether the simple possession of cannabis needed to be criminalized. Under the single convention, a party must, subject to its constitutional limitations, criminalize the cultivation, possession and purchase of drugs.

A few countries have taken the view that possession in the context of the single convention does not include possession for personal consumption. It was argued that the term “possession” that is contained in the enumerated list in article 36 refers to possession for the purpose of distribution. This view was based on the reasoning that the provisions of article 36 are intended to combat drug trafficking because this article is in that part of the single convention that deals with illicit traffic. Most countries have not accepted this line of reasoning and have criminalized possession for personal consumption.

The trafficking convention resolved that issue. Parties to the trafficking convention are required to establish, as a criminal offence, the possession, purchase or cultivation of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances for personal consumption contrary to the provisions of the 1961 and 1971 conventions. This view is confirmed by the interpretation of the United Nations commentary to the trafficking convention.

None of the conventions requires the imposition of specific sentences. All of them require, in one form or another, that imprisonment or other forms of deprivation of liberty are available as a sanction for serious offences.

The conventions also provide that in appropriate cases where abusers have committed an offence, and in appropriate cases of a minor nature, parties may provide as an alternative to conviction or punishment or in addition to conviction or punishment measures such as education, rehabilitation, social integration, treatment and after care.

With respect to cannabis possession involving small amounts, the conventions do not require the imposition of specific sanctions. Accordingly, parties are free to impose the level of sanction they believe appropriate in respect of this offence.

It is possible to deal with this offence in a manner that excludes the possibility of imprisonment. The use of the Contraventions Act whereby a fine would be imposed through the issuance of a ticket without requiring a court appearance is an acceptable alternative to a possible imprisonment sentence. Such an approach would not decriminalize the possession offence. The behaviour would remain a criminal offence and would still attract a penalty, albeit in the form of a fine.

As can be seen, the international drug conventions are constructed in such a way as to give parties to the conventions flexibility in dealing with the offence of possession of small amounts of cannabis. Countries can choose to deal with this offence in a manner that best reflects that country's values and attitudes toward the possession of cannabis.

I will conclude my remarks by indicating my support for the bill and for the proposed amendments.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, again it is my pleasure to speak to the bill. I am not an expert in this area but I have spoken with constituents, with police officers and with a number of family groups and I know their feelings on the bill.

I would like to share those feelings with members of the House. It is rather ironic that in the years that I have been here, every time we have a crisis in government all of a sudden we seem to start dealing with bills that will attract a lot of media attention. Whether it is same sex marriage, abortion or some of the social issues, it seems that those just happen to come up on the agenda about the same time that the government finds itself in a crisis.

I find it rather amazing that the government is in a crisis today and all of a sudden we are talking about marijuana, a most interesting subject that, hopefully, will attract some headlines and get the culture of scandal and corruption off the table.

I do not think it is a coincidence that we are talking about marijuana today. It is basically saying to Canadians that if they are foolish enough to forget about the scandal, here is something that we can get them worked up about as well. Let us start there and let us talk about the bill.

The government has no real strategy or vision, and the throne speech shows that. It does not know where it wants to go with the drug issue. It wants to sort of ride the middle rail, maybe a little bit here and a little bit there. Let us have a two tier system of fines that sends a clear message out to the police, the families and the kids in our society. If people are a certain age they will be fined this much but if they are that age they will be fined that much.

What message are we sending? Obviously, that is not taking a strong stand. That is not taking the science into consideration and, after all, it should be based on those sorts of things. It seems to me that the government is not really listening to the experts either. It is not looking at the consequences, such as the U.S. relationship, all of those things that are implications to the bill.

The government is also not looking to the fact that in my community and in many communities marijuana is now being used as a means to put crystal meth into marijuana so that a kid can become hooked sooner. Science again says that if people use crystal meth one or two times they become hooked.

That is the kind of dirty drug that back when I was young, a long time ago, we at least were smart enough to stay away from. The people who did take drugs knew that there were certain things that they should not fool around with and crystal meth was one of them. If in fact users of marijuana are being hooked by being told that marijuana is fine, that it is just a mild drug and that it is no big deal, but it is being laced with crystal meth, that is a serious problem. That is why the message becomes so important.

I read a pretty interesting book over the Christmas break called The Road to Hell . It is about how the biker gangs are conquering Canada. It tells what the biker gangs are doing in this country and it tells how they are hooking young people and putting them in business. It tells how these young people are so hooked that they become prostitutes and criminals who commit break and entries and steal cars. It is part of a big plan. The gangs are doing really well. They are making billions of dollars. Part of that can certainly fall on the shoulders of the government for not sending the right messages.

Let us look at several areas to which the bill applies.

Let us first talk about the families. I am sure that most members in the House have met with parents of kids who are hooked on drugs. I am sure they have met with parents who have 19-year-olds who started smoking marijuana, then worked their way up and are now 19-year-olds hooked on heroine. The truth is that those young people have a 90% chance of being dead at the age 30. We should talk about that kind of family issue.

What do we say to those parents? Do we say that it is really too bad, that they can go into rehab, but the chance of their children going back on that drug and overdosing is 90% by the time they are 30 years old. It will kill them. A parent's child is dead because of the message that we have sent. Our job is to send the right message. The message is that drugs are bad. We have to do everything to encourage young people by saying that there has to be a better way than to start off with drugs, starting with marijuana. Decriminalizing it I think will send the message that it is okay.

Biker guys are lacing marijuana with crystal meth, but that is okay. Yes, people will get hooked, but that is okay. Maybe they will try something else, but that is okay. That is the message coming out of this place. That is the message the police have when they are on the street trying to stop the whole crisis. They go into the courts and do not really know what the guidance is from Ottawa.

It is a slippery slope. Why did most of us get into politics? Because we cared about the country. We cared about what the country would be like for our children and grandchildren. We wanted to do everything we could to make it a better place for them. That is why the messaging becomes so important and why this bill becomes so important. I am not on the justice committee. I am just the average MP back at home listening to the families, the police and the people who are affected by this.

Families are concerned. The heartache that can be created by drugs within a family, all of us have experienced and seen firsthand. Obviously, we should do everything to try and help those families.

Having a two tier fine system again sends the wrong message to young people. It tells them we will not fine them as much because it is really not as bad if they get hooked early than if they get hooked late.

What does this do for our communities? Ask any police officer what causes most of the crime in our communities. I happen to have a thriving community that has low unemployment and massive growth. We are like a bright light. A former politician in the House and a good of friend of mine, Preston Manning, used to always say that bright lights attracted insects. We are attracting insects and those insects are pushing drugs. They are pushing crystal meth, marijuana and they are associated with a lot of crime.

What do they do when they get young people hooked? They get them into crime. They get them into breaking and entering. They get them into taking cars. There has been close to a 70% increase in crime in my community. If the police are asked why, they say it is because of drugs. They do it to fix and keep their habits going.

There are so many more areas we could talk about, such as the two tier system, American relations, marijuana leading to harder drugs and driving. We do not have a test for people who are intoxicated with drugs. Until we do, it seems to me that we should definitely not be legalizing in any way or sending the wrong message from this place about the use of drugs.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand I will have 10 minutes and so I have many things to say.

The bill is before us, having been referred initially as a private member's bill to a committee that was studying the issues of the non-medical use of drugs in Canada. It was a committee of members of Parliament from all sides, and at the time there were five parties in the House. The members set about reviewing what was going on in Canada.

The member for Red Deer likes to talk about the few people he talked to about this issue. For over 18 months, the committee made up of representatives from his two parties and other parties went out and studied what was taking place on our streets in our communities and considered what was the best solution to make changes. In all, the committee made 41 recommendations, two of them related to cannabis specifically. Those were related because of a private member's bill by an Alliance member at the time who wanted to decriminalize the possession of marijuana.

As I mentioned, there were 41 recommendations in the committee report. It was a unanimous report. The opposition members may forget, but their party also supported the decriminalization of marijuana.

The member mentioned the United States and what was happening there. He thought that was important for a comparison. There are at least 11 states that have some form of decriminalization.

Let us think about what decriminalization means. We have a substance that remains illegal. It is illegal to possess marijuana and resin in Canada. That was the 40th recommendation our committee made.

The 41st was to take a look at changing how we punished those who broke our laws. Canada has a series of punishments. We have fines, community service and jail time. Those are appropriate consequences for breaking the laws of Canada.

Today we have a situation where 50% of those who are caught possessing marijuana are given a criminal record which has dire consequences for their careers for the rest of their lives. It limits their travel. It limits the career options they can take. It affects their businesses and their families. People said to us that this was too harsh.

I am concerned about the other 50% of Canadians for whom there have been no consequences, who are under the mistaken belief that it is legal in Canada to possess marijuana. I want to send a very strong message to them that we have a law on the books and it will be enforced.

How do we ensure that it will be enforced? We make it administratively simple. We make it fair across the country so police forces are doing the same thing in my community as they are doing in Red Deer and as they are doing in your community, Mr. Speaker.

In spite of the fact that there is a potential for a criminal record, some 100,000 Canadians every day are using cannabis. I would say to the hon. members opposite who are concerned about the use of cannabis as I am, that there are legal drugs that are being misused. As a government, as people who care about our fellow citizens, we have to do a much better job. I was pleased to see the government support again for the committee recommendation that we get and talk to people.

For all those people who use back medication, which has codeine in it, each and every day, or for all those people who misuse alcohol, cigarettes and who are not being all that they can be, we have to do a better job of dealing with substances and helping people get through the misuse of substances, be they legal or illegal.

We talked to young people across the country who are using prescription drugs, injecting them and having difficulties.

The member opposite talked about marijuana being a gateway. That theory has been set up by some individuals. If we look back, yes, people who use heroine generally have used other substances. The member opposite mentioned crystal meth. They probably used cannabis. They also probably smoked, drank and ate cornflakes. However, we are not going to change our laws on that front. The commonality is that these people have a substance use problem. We have to make better inroads in dealing with substance use and misuse.

I know the members opposite mentioned that they had not been on the committee, so I am sure they are interested in hearing what the committee heard. Again, the committee was unanimous in that we had to do a better job.

Members of the party of the member for Red Deer also supported the recommendations that we decriminalize the possession of marijuana.

The member opposite mentioned that there are different systems in the bill, and there are. We have different sentences for murder for young offenders versus adult offenders. We have different sentences for the severity of the crime, based on quantity. We have a system in Canada where if people are speeding on the QEW at 20 kilometres over the speed limit, they are fined. Going much faster than that, 250 kilometres, is a criminal offence.

The bill would rightfully establish that for small amounts of marijuana, there would be a fine system. For a person possessing more marijuana, there would be alternatives, based on what police believed was the best way to proceed. For large amounts, it would clearly be trafficking and criminal behaviour, and that is the way with which it would be dealt.

Around the world, governments are dealing with how to best enforce the laws and how to deliver the most solid message to their constituents. It is not just about dealing with people who are using at the end. It is not just an end of pipe solution.

We have a need for more treatment facilities, for much more education and for a sounder social framework so we can say to people, that they seem to be getting a little out of hand with their alcohol use, or their prescription drug use, or their illegal drug use, and that we will help them find the resources to deal with the inner problems that are causing them, in some cases, to have this particular need.

The bill is a very solid response to what is happening across Canada in our communities.

My nieces will tell members that I do not condone the use of marijuana. Too many people make inappropriate decisions in their lives. The scariest thing I heard from young people was that they got the message that drinking and driving was wrong, but they did not actually get the right message. The message they got was, “Don't do it because you can get caught”. Some young people tell me that rather than drink at a party, they use cannabis.

To all those young people who think that it is okay to drive while under the influence of prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, illegal drugs or legal drugs, do not do it. It is not good for them and it is not good for others on the highways and roadways.

We are developing a test, as are other countries. However, right now a police officer can arrest and charge someone with being impaired, whether they are impaired from codeine or over the counter medications or whether they are impaired from cannabis or alcohol. We have to work with our police officers, and we are working with our police officers. I have talked to police officers who have in fact arrested people on that basis. Those individuals tell me it is possible. We will continue to work on that test.

Let us be clear. Young people have been high from cannabis and have driven on the road beside other vehicles, However, the last five times they encountered a police officer nothing happened to them. They just had their pot taken away from them. That is the wrong message.

The message has to be that there is a law on the books. They need to be told that they will be given a fine. They need to understand that we have laws on the books that will be enforced, that we are being responsible and are sending a strong message to individuals.

I encourage all members to support this bill. We have heard much about democratic reform in the country. This was again an issue brought up by members of this House who said, “Let's study the problem. Let's find the solutions”, and members of this House, representatives of five political parties, came up with the unanimous report to which the government responded with action on education, on treatment and on dealing with research, which is far too lacking.

The government also replied with legislation, and that is the bill is before us, again amended by a committee of the House. I know the member for Winnipeg Centre talked about the member for Vancouver East who did a lot of hard work, as did the member for Langley—Abbotsford, the member for Crowfoot, the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, the member Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier and members of this party. We worked very hard to consider all the options. There was great cooperation from all members, elected representatives, who studied the issue and came up with the best solution.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite said she was concerned about drug use and its effect on our young people. I have no doubt that she is sincere when she says that. However I do not know where she is coming from when she relates a serious subject such as marijuana to the use of too many corn flakes when we were young.

I know this is a serious issue and Canadians are concerned about it. There are many serious aspects to this discussion that need to be discussed and relating it to corn flakes seems to me to be off the wall and inappropriate.

The government has continued with a legislative agenda that amounts to smoke and mirrors; illusions. It seems that legislation after legislation comes forward with serious problems that affect the health and well-being of Canadians and the government's response is to come forward with smoke and mirrors.

We have an ad scandal going on right now and the response has been to slap the crown corporations and hold the heads of those corporations to account. Even though they were former members of the Liberal government, and several were prominent ministers, they are not elected and not accountable. The government wants to hold the 14 supposed civil servants responsible but it does not want to look across at its colleagues who almost certainly had knowledge of the affairs and put responsibility where they could be held to account by the voters. That is smoke and mirrors.

Pornography was up for discussion earlier last week where we heard the artistic merit defence. We are talking about artistic merit as a defence for child pornography and the government comes up with a public good defence as a substitute. This creates the illusion that we are taking the appropriate response, when in fact we are not. The same could be said of sentencing.

When we talk about Bill C-10, members of the House ought to be concerned about the health and welfare of Canadians and building healthy Canadians. I am sure all members have an interest in this. I am opposed to Bill C-10 because it would not improve the health of Canadians. In fact, I argue that it would do just the opposite.

The consequences of smoking marijuana have yet to be studied and thoroughly understood. The health minister right now is spending $500 million trying to convince Canadians to stop smoking cigarettes. That is a lot of money. We have serious health problems in Canada. On the one hand the government wants to make it easier to smoke marijuana and on the other hand it wants to put $250 million into advising Canadians not to smoke marijuana. If we are trying to build a healthy population, what the government is doing is not logical nor is it consistent.

It is well-known that the benzopyrene, the tars, the carcinogens in marijuana are far more concentrated than they are in cigarettes. It is estimated that two to three marijuana cigarettes are equivalent to roughly 20 cigarettes in terms of the harmful components in that product. If we are talking about building healthy Canadians, this would be a health care disaster.

The former prime minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, said “Politics that ignores science will not stand the test of time”.

I am opposed to the bill for a number of reasons, the first being the effect on our young people. My colleague from Red Deer, who spoke a few moments ago, talked about the influence of marijuana now laced with crystal meth, for example, and the risk that poses. Society is at risk for break-ins because money is needed to buy the fix and so on.

The second reason I am concerned is the dangers to the public. We have no way of testing when someone is impaired by the use of drugs, including marijuana. The police are not able to do roadside tests that would provide protection for the public from people under the influence of drugs, including marijuana, when they are driving a vehicle or operating heavy equipment.

My third concern is the impact this would have on organized crime. Organized crime is up to its ears in marijuana and other illegal drugs and the bill would not help. It would only enhance their profit making.

My fourth concern has to do with the effects on our borders. My final concern has to do with the health of Canadians. All of those are very serious issues that have not been adequately addressed by the bill.

On May 9 of last year the Vancouver Sun ran a series of articles on the marijuana grow ops on the west coast. The same can also be said of Toronto. It is estimated that some 10,000 grow ops exist in and around the metro Toronto area. The headline in the Vancouver Sun at that time read:

In every neighbourhood

Marijuana has transformed B.C. from crime backwater into the centre of a multi-billion-dollar industry that has crept into communities across the province.

It estimated marijuana to be worth $4 billion a year in sales. Some estimates went as high as $7 billion. That would make marijuana the largest cash crop in British Columbia and probably in Canada, certainly in terms of agriculture. It would be higher than all our farm produce, the apples, the fruit and all other cultivated crops.

The RCMP say:

Canadians who dismiss marijuana as a harmless drug should think twice.

The link between marijuana cultivation and organized crime cannot be over-emphasized, and neither can the consequences for society. The huge profits associated with grow operations are used by many criminal groups to purchase other more dangerous drugs or even weapons, and finance various illicit activities.

On the west coast the RCMP are concerned about Vietnamese gang activity in Vancouver's cannabis cultivation industry which increased almost 20 fold between 1997 and 2000. The police are concerned about gang wars between Hell's Angels, the traditional profiteers in this realm, and the Asian gangs.

Again, in that series of articles by the Vancouver Sun , there was a response from then minister of justice, Martin Cauchon, who said “We're getting tough”. It is interesting that the marijuana bill was introduced at the same time as the health department announced that its revamped national drug strategy will spend millions on drug education and prevention. It is inconsistent.

The then minister of justice said:

My primary concern here is to make sure we're going to have an effective policy, sending a strong message that marijuana is illegal in Canada.

I do not think the message being put forward in Bill C-10 is that message when we make it easier to access the product and as many as 30 grams or 30 joints will not even require an appropriate response from the government.

I have an article that deals with crystal meth, which was mentioned by the member for Red Deer earlier. It is a substance for just $10 that can be salted into marijuana. Crystal meth is produced very easily in laboratories and homes. It is such a dangerous and debilitating drug that cocaine and heroine are safer choices, says Dr. Ian Martin. The success rate for treatment is a dismal 10%.

The article goes on to say that meth is a sneaky killer, that it is at least as addictive as heroine and cocaine, yet it is almost impossible to die from an overdose of meth. Meth addicts are more likely to kill themselves by leaping off bridges than to die from the direct effects of the drug.

What meth does do is kill brain cells. It causes hallucinations, paranoia and psychosis, following an exquisite high. The excess free radicals in the cells kill brain cells. All these dead brain cells lead to memory loss, a decrease in the ability to plan even simple things like going to the grocery store and it reduces motor abilities resulting in symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease. That cannot be good for our young people.

Our young people are being led to believe, by actions like the government is proposing, that there is nothing wrong with these drugs, that they are simple and harmless. In fact, it is a very dangerous precedent once people start to go down the path of these mood altering drugs and it makes them vulnerable to abuse from those who seek even higher profit from seeing them addicted in a manner they can no longer control.

The message of different fines for young people from older people, in my mind, is a very inconsistent message. It makes it possible for young people to be victimized by those who are a little older. They will simply say that it belongs to their young friend as they try to duck responsibility for the fines and the product.

What kind of message is it when we can say that all of a sudden it will be legal to possess it but illegal to grow it and illegal to buy it? This is an exercise in foolishness.

Canadians are looking for sound policies and real responses from government. They are not looking for smoke and mirrors. They want the kinds of answers that will build a stable society, not create more problems, more affected young people, more debilitated young people and more young people who are suffering and who will need help in the future when they will not be able to produce and look after themselves.

The bill has many deficiencies. The police need the tools to be able to evaluate a person's ability to drive a vehicle or operate heavy equipment. Organized crime does not need the kind of boost that Bill C-10 would provide.

Veterans AffairsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, on February 19, 2004, the federal government announced a compensation program for Canadian veterans who were exposed to mustard gas testing during the second world war. I believe this is too little, too late.

Since 1939 these veterans have suffered in secrecy. Approximately 3,500 soldiers were exposed to mustard gas and other chemical weapons. The volunteers suffered severe burns and blistering, but military doctors refused to link their symptoms with the tests.

Why did the government wait so long to fully recognize and compensate these courageous veterans? Why did it take the threat of a class action lawsuit to push the government to provide compensation? Lastly, why did the ombudsman from the military have to step in to moderate?

It is time the government re-examined its funding for Veterans Affairs. Veterans Affairs does not have its own ombudsman its own parliamentary secretary, nor does it have enough funds to provide headstones for its fallen veterans.

When will the government place Canadian veterans on its priority list?

Public ServiceStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Eugène Bellemare Liberal Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians should take pride in a professional public service.

It is comforting to know that the President of the Privy Council will soon introduce a bill to protect conscientious public servants who blow the whistle on wrongdoings at the workplace. Such legislation must protect serious whistleblowers and those who are wrongfully accused either accidentally or purposely.

The key to success for whistleblower legislation rests on protecting the career of honest employees and the integrity of the public service.

Tony BethellStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Murray Calder Liberal Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Tony Bethell, a second world war fighter pilot who was among the survivors of a German prisoner of war camp. Mr. Bethell died this week at his home in my riding at the age of 81.

Mr. Bethell spent three years in the POW camp Stalag Luft. Bethell was among 23 participants involved in a mass breakout from the camp known as “The Great Escape”. Stalag Luft was supposed to be more secure than any other prison camp, but a daring tunnel escape was planned by prisoners so that the Germans could not go and fight at the front lines.

Bethell is remembered by his family as a man of great strength and character. We here in the House would agree with that. He is survived by his wife Lorna, several grown children and 14 grandchildren.

On behalf of all members of the House, I wish to extend our sincere sympathy and condolences to his family and friends.

Éco-NatureStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago, the Éco-Nature agency won the 2003 Aventure Écotourisme Québec award for good environmental practices.

The mission of this not-for-profit agency, which was founded in 1985, is to protect and promote the Mille-Îles River and to manage the river park for the benefit of the community.

Through its environmental conservation work, Éco-Nature has also initiated a number of environmental education and awareness programs for the public.

Over the past year, Éco-Nature has also won the national Phénix Environment award in the sustainable use of biodiversity category and was the regional winner of the Grand Prix du Tourisme québécois in the outdoor adventure tourism category.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Éco-Nature for the magnificent work it has done for the environment and for our community.

Post-Secondary EducationStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Paul Bonwick Liberal Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, on February 16 it was with great pleasure that I signed an accord, on behalf of the Minister of HRSD, with my colleague, the Minister of Education for Newfoundland and Labrador.

This integration agreement commits to a new level of federal-provincial relations between the Government of Canada and the people of Newfoundlands and Labrador. The accord provides for an amalgamation of services for students securing student loans and will create a much more efficient method for students to access financial assistance.

I would also like to add that the Prime Minister's commitment to strengthening federal-provincial relations was recognized by the Minister of Education as a welcome and appreciated gesture.

I offer my thanks to the Prime Minister for his unprecedented support of students in this country in accessing post-secondary education. One thing is clear. The students of Newfoundland and Labrador will now receive better service when accessing financial assistance as a direct result of the efforts of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

HockeyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday CBC carried part of the Hockey Day in Canada from Shaunavon, Saskatchewan which played host to Don Cherry and Ron McLean.

Less than a generation ago Saskatchewan boasted that it produced more pro hockey players than any province in Canada and further, more than any country in the world. Sadly, this statistic is no longer true.

The rapid change in the population of rural Saskatchewan, with the loss of hundreds of young farm families, has reduced the number of talented hockey players.

Thanks to a government that has no agriculture policy for western Canada and a Saskatchewan-only audit of junior hockey, hockey is struggling to continue in Saskatchewan.

The government needs to take much of the blame for the diminishing hockey program. The Liberals should get a match game misconduct penalty and that should start after the next election.

Film ProductionStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Christian Jobin Liberal Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a moment to congratulate all the artists and craftspeople of the Quebec cinema who were honoured last night at the Jutra Awards gala. Les Invasions barbares , or The Barbarian Invasions , won four Jutra awards, including best film, best screenplay and best director, and as well, the Jutra for the film with the most success outside Quebec. La Grande Séduction , known in English as Seducing Doctor Lewis , received seven awards, including the prestigious Billet d'or and the Jutra for best art direction. Gaz Bar Blues captured the award for best actor.

I would also like to acknowledge the success of our filmmakers at the Nuit des Césars in Paris on Saturday. Les Triplettes de Belleville—The Triplets of Belleville won for the best original music and Les Invasions barbares gathered more glory, winning three Césars, including best film of the year. Moreover, Les Invasions barbares is also nominated for two Oscars at the Academy Awards taking place next weekend.

Perhaps the good wishes expressed by the hon. member for Témiscamingue last Friday brought good luck to Mr. Arcand. The Government of Canada is proud to support the creativity and influence of Canadian cinema.

Ingrid BetancourtStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, two years ago, on February 23, 2002, Ingrid Betancourt was abducted and imprisoned by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Ingrid Betancourt ran for the presidency of Colombia in order to put an end to the corruption, drug trafficking and violence that are rampant in her country. She showed exceptional courage.

Today is the First International Hostages Day. Thousands of people around the world are demonstrating to deliver the message that, whatever the reason, taking civilian hostages is unacceptable.

The Canadian government has given no solid support to Ingrid Betancourt. Because we in the Bloc Quebecois share the same values of respect for human rights, we call upon the Government of Canada—in collaboration with other countries such as France and Italy—to do everything in its power to convince Alvaro Uribe to agree to enter into negotiations.

Mike WeirStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, Ontario's Mike Weir won the Nissan Open at the Riviera Golf Club in Los Angeles yesterday, joining Ben Hogan and Corey Pavin as the only golfers to win consecutive Nissan Opens.

It was an exciting finish with Mike tied for the lead with only one hole remaining in regulation. In the pouring rain, Mike pulled out an even par round of 71 to win the tournament.

With this win Mike rises to number four in the official world golf ranking. The 33 year old was named Canadian Tour rookie of the year in 1993 and rose through the ranks to win the Masters just 10 years later.

Now, well established among the best golfers of the world, Mike is establishing himself as the best left-handed golfer ever.

I would like to extend my congratulations, along with those of the residents of Simcoe North, and indeed of all Canadians to Mike Weir on his success.

We say congratulations to Mike and tell him to keep up the good work.

AgricultureStatements By Members

February 23rd, 2004 / 2:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government has had plenty of time to deal with the BSE crisis. Looking back, a solution within a few weeks would have been great and within months would have been tolerable, but by letting nearly a year pass without a solution, the government has guaranteed a disaster.

We still have no plan to deal with the cull cows. We have no new slaughter facilities and the border still remains closed.

Statistics Canada has released the cold, hard facts detailing just how bad things are getting. It becomes clear that this is not a million dollar crisis as the government would lead us to believe, but a billion dollar crisis.

The hope was that the border would be open by now, but the reality is that cattle stocks have reached an all-time high. The prices ranchers are receiving for their product are at an all-time low. Meanwhile, the federal support programs are falling significantly short of addressing the disaster.

The calls I am now receiving are of abject distress. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Prime Minister have once again failed Canadian agriculture.

Veterans AffairsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, last Thursday the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Veterans Affairs made an important announcement.

I rise today to remind all members of the importance of their new initiative to recognize Canadian veterans who volunteered to participate in chemical warfare agent experiments during the 1940s and the 1970s at Suffield and Ottawa.

Veterans will be offered a one time payment of $24,000 in recognition of their service, and in cases where the veteran has passed away, certain surviving beneficiaries may be eligible for the payment.

Too often we Canadians take our veterans for granted. That is why this initiative is premised on recognizing these veterans for their service to their country. I hope those who participated in these tests so long ago will come forward so that the government might, in the words of the Minister of National Defence, “set things right”.

It is never too late to salute those who bravely sacrificed so much to defend our country so long ago. I trust that all members will join me in praising this long overdue initiative.

Canada-U.S. BorderStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my condolences to the family of 40 year old Ms. Lori Bishop who was tragically killed in Niagara Falls.

On February 18 American police pursued a high speed chase through the border crossing with no regard to Canadian sovereignty. This action set off a chain of events that resulted in this tragedy.

This has happened before. American police have breached Canadian sovereignty, and put the general public and our customs workers at risk with total disregard for our laws.

Last summer, when a similar situation took place in Windsor, Ontario the minister of customs and the Minister of Foreign Affairs brushed off requests to deal with this issue seriously. They were both warned and requested to take decisive action. This was a tragedy waiting to happen.

Border communities demand action. Instead, here we are again. Now that someone has been killed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs should have the integrity to call upon the ambassador of the United States and convey that these breaches will not be tolerated.

Quebec CinemaStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Denys Arcand film, The Barbarian Invasions , won best film, best screenplay, best director, for a total of three Césars in Paris and four Jutras in Montreal, including best film.

The César for best musical score went to Benoît Charest for his inspired The Triplets of Belleville , and seven Jutras went to Jean-François Pouliot's Seducing Doctor Lewis . Another winner in this amazing year for Quebec cinema is Gaz Bar Blues , which garnered the Jutras for best actor for Serge Thériault's performance and best musical score for Guy Bélanger and Claude Fradette. À hauteur d'homme , by Jean-Claude Labrecque, and Roger Toupin, épicier variété , by Benoît Pilon, tied for best documentary.

2003 was an exceptional year for the Quebec cinema. As the mistress of ceremonies for the Jutras noted, our creators have been our best ambassadors and do not need to be recalled from Denmark.

The Bloc Quebecois congratulates all the nominees, both individuals and companies.

Agricultural CooperativesStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Claude Duplain Liberal Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, these days, agricultural cooperatives in Canada are faced with a changing business world. Given the globalization of markets and increased competition, a lack of capitalization prevents agricultural cooperatives from making strategic investments in areas such as cutting edge technologies.

These cooperatives make an important contribution to the Canadian economy, generating cumulative sales of over $28 billion and a total of 80,000 jobs. Typically located in rural regions, cooperatives are an important source of regional economic development.

It is important that the various levels of government implement national programs so that agricultural cooperatives can obtain sufficient capital, at lower rates, while preserving their integrity and the fundamental values they hold dear.

MarijuanaStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, marijuana growing factories are appearing all across Canada.

There are an estimated 15,000 grow ops in homes across Ontario. This is old news to British Columbians. Surrey alone has an estimated 3,500 to 4,500, while the city and the RCMP do their best to cope.

The RCMP have called grow ops an epidemic in B.C., Quebec, and Ontario. The huge bust at an old brewery in Barrie underscored just how big the problem has become, an increase of more than six-fold since 1993, all during this government's watch.

In Ontario the green tide summit on March 4 and 5 will coordinate the efforts of police, firefighters, utilities, real estate brokers, and insurance companies, in the fight against grow ops. Police believe that 10,000 Ontario children are being raised in these houses.

Ontario Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Monte Kwinter is quoted as saying, “There are serious implications for the quality of life that we have in our community”.

The best the Liberal government can do is to tinker around with maximum sentences when the courts do not even use those currently on the books.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, on September 26, 2001, in order to protect our migratory bird populations, I introduced in this House a motion to replace sinkers and lures containing lead with non-toxic ones. At that time, because of the archaic procedure for private members' business, my motion unfortunately died on the order paper.

Most unexpectedly, almost two and one-half years later, my initiative seems to have finally raised people's awareness sufficiently for the government to finally decide to take action. Better later than never. Last Tuesday, the Minister of the Environment announced that he will be taking steps to gradually phase out this environmentally harmful fishing equipment.

I can therefore conclude that my initiative was not completely wasted. So, in these tumultuous times in which praise is a rare commodity, I must congratulate the Minister of the Environment on this excellent decision.

Guido MolinariStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was saddened to learn yesterday of the passing of the enfant terrible of Quebec painting, Guido Molinari.

Mr. Molinari was one of the greats in Quebec, outranked only by Borduas. He was an open and generous man, a man with a big heart. He was a great dreamer as well.

His contribution to the creation of an art form specific to Quebec was a huge one, and his work always focused on a search for purity of colour.

Guido Molinari was a painter who has left his mark. A great dreamer with a concern for the posterity of his life's work, he did not have time to create a foundation bearing his name. It will, we hope, eventually see the light of day, for this great painter owned a sizeable collection.

Our condolences to the Molinari family.

Equalization PaymentsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, on Friday last the finance ministers from the provinces met with the federal Minister of Finance. The purpose was to discuss a new equalization deal for the provinces.

The minister offered a deal; the provinces rejected it and rightly so. The $1.3 billion over five years works out to be $265 million a year, to be divided among eight provinces.

The minister says the gap is closing between the have and have not provinces. This only happens when the economy of Ontario takes a dip. The minister is playing politics. He knows he can get more political credit from putting money into other areas rather than equalization. He might reject the provinces and their people for now, but it will be their turn when the election is called.